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Zero-bail policy — a process eliminating set cash bail amounts for suspect criminals accused of misdemeanors and specific non-violent felonies — took effect in Los Angeles County on Sunday even as a dozen cities challenge the controversial system in court.
“This change just applies to a tiny segment of the pretrial system,” Jeff Stein from the Civil Rights Corps told ABC7. “It’s just about that window between when a person is arrested and when they see a judge in LA. That can last up to five days.”
According to reports, the Los Angeles County Superior Court instituted the policy known as Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols in July, arguing that cash bail processes discriminate against minorities and poor communities. The decision came after a Superior Court judge issued an order in late May when several plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit claiming that they suffered “negative consequences because they could not afford bail, including missed work, separation from their families and lapsed medical care,” according to KTLA.
Under the new policy, suspects arrested on non-violent or non-serious offenses face being cited and released or booked and released at local law enforcement stations. If authorities actually charge a suspect with a crime, they are ordered to appear in court on a specific date for arraignment. If the suspect poses a threat to the public or is considered a flight risk, they would face a magistrate judge for a case review to determine if authorities should hold the suspect in custody until arraignment or released with certain restrictions.
But just before the policy took effect, a dozen cities in Los Angeles County filed a court action on Friday, arguing it poses a threat to public safety.
“There is and has been grave public concern regarding public safety in light of reduced enforcement and criminal consequences for various categories of `low-level’ offenses that, despite the nomenclature, have profound and significant impacts on the day-to-day life of whole communities of plaintiff cities and others within the county,” the cities reportedly wrote in court papers.
The 12 cities listed in the suit are Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs, Vernon, and Whittier.
“Our big hope would be to overturn the zero-bail policy or at least put a pause on it so that we have the ability to take a harder look at it and find out whether or not this is the right thing to do,” Glendora Mayor Gary Boyer reportedly said.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore issued a statement about the new policy on social media.
“Law enforcement is averse to the list of ‘book and release’ offenses because that approach offers little to no deterrence to those involved in a range of serious criminal offenses,” Moore said on X. “We are asking the court to not release individuals who pose risks to the community’s safety, including those with repeated instances of prior serious offenses.”
California District Attorney Jeff Reisig criticized the county’s zero-bail policy on X on Sunday morning.
“They ignored the only thorough comparative study in CA on Zero Bail and its impact on statewide crime. My county,” Reisig said. “What our 2023 study found was frightening: 163% more crime + 200% more violent crime committed in CA by arrestees released from jail on Zero Bail.”
Los Angeles has been plagued by rampant retail and personal theft in recent months.
Most types of violent crime are down in Los Angeles except theft, which is up 15% to more than 20,409 thefts compared to this time last year, according to police data reported by The Daily Wire.
Since the fall of 2021, Los Angeles County has seen at least 170 organized retail thefts, including the smash-and-grab trend, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.
Mairead Elordi contributed to this report.